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UN Women reports on Vientiane vendors

UN Women in Laos has launched a landmark report in Vientiane on the importance of gender equality, women's empowerment, and advocacy for gender-responsive policies.

Participants from the Lao Women's Union, UN Women and other development partners attend the meeting on market vendors.

A meeting in Vientiane yesterday reported on a baseline study of the situation of women market vendors in Vientiane, the first of its kind in Laos.

According to the report, titled “Women's invisible burden: The struggle for dignified and meaningful livelihoods in the informal sector in Laos”, women represent more than 90 percent of vendors in fresh food markets across the country and earn 100,000-500,000 kip daily on average.

However, women market vendors in Vientiane have faced exorbitant rent and electricity bill increases. They are also poorly represented in decision-making bodies in business life.

Women also do up to four times more household chores and care work than men, and are heavily represented in the 71 percent of the population who are reliant on subsistence agriculture, according to the UN Women report.

According to the Gender Resource Information and Development Centre run by the Lao Women's Union, a lack of education and economic opportunities, and limited access to resources drive women into the informal sector and small-scale enterprises.

The vast majority of these women fall into one or more vulnerable groups: informal workers, poor, educated at a low level, living with disabilities or residing in remote areas. These women encounter even greater obstacles to decent jobs, services and other fundamentals of well-being.

However, a recent push by the Lao government to improve women's economic position is evident in its National Strategy for the Advancement of Women, aimed at promoting women's small and medium enterprises and economic leadership, increasing women's participation in development planning and improving t heir access to services.

Other recent advances include women's growing participation in the labour market.

During the meeting, Regional Director of the UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Dr Miwa Kato, said the study on women market vendors in Vientiane found that despite women representing the vast majority with over 90 percent of vendors in fresh food markets across the country being women, their roles and contribution to local economies often go unnoticed and their voices are unheard in decision-making bodies.

In addition, women vendors lack awareness, knowledge, skills and access to credit. As a result, some women choose to set up stalls on the street and face risks, such as being arrested or being involved in a traffic accident.

The findings of the Vientiane-based report indicate that a greater proportion of women engage in vulnerable work than men, including informal work, self-employment or unpaid work for the family business.

According to UN Women, providing capacity-building for women market vendors on necessary skills that respond to their needs is crucial to improve their businesses.

Particular emphasis might be placed on women street vendors, who tend to be the most vulnerable, helping them to secure proper spaces to sell their products, as this would be an important starting point.

UN Women may consider working with market management committees, market owners and village authorities to support women street vendors by giving them permission to sell their products in markets, or providing special conditions such as lower market fees or special permits during certain hours of the day.

 

 

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update
February 2,
2017)


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